Whenever the theater department at Woodberry Forest School held a play, the acoustics were noticeably off. Echoes and reverberation were tarnishing perfectly good performances. In search of acoustic materials and services, the school contacted Acoustical Solutions. The soundproofing and noise control company supplied and installed acoustic panels and sound baffles throughout the auditorium.
Sitting on 1,200 acres and positioned between Charlottesville, Virginia and the District of Columbia, Woodberry Forest School is one of the nation’s premiere independent boarding schools. Since 1889, the school has been committed to providing its students with a thorough, well-rounded education. An important part of that education is fine arts.
The problem Woodberry ran into was the school’s main performance hall, the 500-seat Bowman Gray Auditorium:
“At least half of the seats of our theater were poor in terms of audiences’ understanding of the unaided human voice,” explained Brent Cirves, Woodberry’s fine arts chair. “and the impression has been that the actors were not doing their work.”
Knowing the real reason behind the auditorium’s poor speech intelligibility, Mr. Cirves sought to fight the severe reverberation and slap-back echo with high-quality acoustic treatment.
Acoustical Solutions took a multi-faceted approach to tackling Woodberry’s auditorium acoustics issue:
First, the back wall of the auditorium was treated with one-inch-thick AlphaSorb® Acoustic Panels. These panels work by absorbing sound energy and converting it into heat energy before it can create reverberation in the room.
Next, 28 4’x6′ Barrel Sound Diffusers were mounted on the walls to the left and right of the stage and seating area. Barrel Sound Diffusers are reflective in nature, and scatter or disperse sound energy throughout a space. They eliminate direct echoes created between parallel walls.
With these treatments, the sound energy aiming toward the back wall is absorbed while the remainder continues to reflect for a short time, keeping sound full and live in the auditorium, but eliminating echo that muddles speech.
One more dilemma beleaguered faculty dealing with the Bowman Gray Auditorium.
“With a very tall roof over the front-of-house, sound was lost up at the ceiling among catwalks,” explained Mr. Cirves.
To combat this problem, Acoustical Solutions installed one-inch-thick PolyPhon® Acoustic Panels on the underside of the catwalks.
These panels absorbed the “stuck” or “lost” sound energy in the auditorium’s higher spaces.
Before the panels were installed, audience members would hear initial sound from the production, and again and again as the energy bounced between the auditorium’s hard surfaces.
Now that the panels have been installed, most sound waves that reach the back wall are absorbed and don’t have a chance to reflect. The diffusers kept the sound absorptive panels from deadening the performance venue.
“We can already tell from rehearsals that the fix which Acoustical Solutions has done is a huge improvement… so far so good – great, in fact. The facility is also more attractive thanks to the new look of the walls.” – Brent Cirves